As I’ve discussed in the prior articles in this series, there are many exercises that we do in the gym that, although they may work the intended muscle group, they place too much stress on the spine. Firefighters should avoid these exercises like the plague because, due to the nature of your job, your back already has to deal with lots of forces that can progressively lower your threshold for injury.
Calf-Raises And The Spine
The calf-raise machine is one of those exercises.
There are three different types of forces that can be placed on body segments and joints: tension (a pulling apart), compression (a pushing together) and torque (a twisting).
The joints we’re concerned about here are the Inter-vertebral Joints in the spine.
Compression is the most damaging to those joints. The reason is because there’s a fluid-filled disc between each set of vertebrae (very important little guys) that can become permanently damaged if ruptured. Torque can also be really damaging to the inter-vertebral joints which I’ll discuss next week.
So don’t voluntarily load up your spine! If you’ve got to do it when wearing your gear and pack then avoid it otherwise! If you want strong calves, plyometric exercises are a great way to work them.
Try doing box jumps – picture below. Not only will they improve lower leg strength and power, they place minimal stress on your knees, hips and back, and they get your heart rate up, so you’re getting in some cardio at the same time.
Read the complete series here:
5 Exercises FFs Should NOT Do & What To Do Instead